When looking past the spinning wheel of Bible games, the visitor of BibleGameZone.com may notice an ad for “The Missionary Game” at the bottom of the page. Included with the name of the game are a set of pictures that begin with two missionaries at a headquarters, who then travel through jungle and dangerous wildness to finally arrive at a remote village. This ad becomes even more interesting after discovering the fact that the website could be changed to a whole list of different languages, some of which are fairly specific and unfamiliar. From this information only, it may be easy to assume that the site is attempting to lead people to Christianity from remote nations by endorsing such a game and having the site accessible in many languages. But situated beside the banner for the Missionary Game is an even smaller banner with a cross-shaped symbol and the name “Storst av Alt.”
Upon clicking on this mysterious symbol, the visitor is directed to the website for The Church of Norway. On the Norwegian language page with the symbol and name Storst av Alt, meaning “Greatest of All,” a video can be viewed displaying some of the programs being implemented by the Church. Many activities usually identified as nonreligious such as rock music, breakdancing, and even a fire-wielding entertainer are being introduced into the Christian experience to appeal to younger members of the Church. Furthermore, in the section titled “Religious Education” on the English version of the website, the opening sentence states that “the formal link between the public school system and the church has been weakened in recent decades, so the Church of Norway has intensified its educational efforts” (Church of Norway). Also, the writers express the belief that the church community has the responsibility to teach all Christian children that belong to the Church. When considering that the Church of Norway is using new strategies to teach Christianity and that the church believes that attention of the Christian community should be directed towards young children, it makes sense that the Church would create a Christian gaming website in order to more effectively teach children. But what about the Missionary game and the appearance of the many languages on the website?
In the “Mission in Norway and Abroad ” section of the website, the Church is described as having many “organizations that support around 800 missionaries and development cooperation personnel working in Asia, Africa and Latin America, most of them now working for independent national churches that were founded by the foreign mission” (Church of Norway). Such organizations include Norwegian Church Aid, which has become the country’s largest nongovernmental development agency that operates in developing countries and works to raise awareness of these countries in Norway. The Norwegian Bible Society is also credited with “spearheading Bible work in Madagascar, Israel and in Latin American countries, and in Eastern Europe in cooperation with national churches” (Church of Norway). So the missionary game, and some of the language choices as well displayed on BibleGameZone.com, may generally reflect the importance to the Church of Norway of reaching out to foreign lands and establishing a Christian support system in various countries. One other interesting point about the Norwegian Bible Society is that it not only publishes all Norwegian bibles in the country, but that also works to publish Bibles in the diminishing minority Sami language. Incidentally, some of the language choices on the BibleGameZone website include several Sami dialects and other lesser Norwegian languages. In some ways, the Church of Norway is displaying their stance on foreign ministry on BibleGameZone.com by providing the links to games like “The Missionary Game” and including foreign language options. On the other hand, the Church is also trying to encourage Christianity in their own country by reaching out to children through religious games, as well as to to preserve diminishing minority languages by translating religious texts and games into many diverse dialects.
Behind the Scenes at Biblegamezone.com
Biblegamezone.com features 15 simple Flash animation games, each drawn from stories in the Bible. The bright colors and friendly cartoon renderings of Biblical characters indicate a young target audience. However, online resources indicate otherwise. “Based on internet averages, biblegamezone.com is visited more frequently by males who are in the age range 25-34, have children, are graduate school educated and browse this site from work” (www.alexa.com). This may seem strange, maybe these are fathers scouting out games for their kids to play or just killing time at work, but there is more information. “Biblegamezone.com is ranked #2,273,171 in the world according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings. This site has a bounce rate of roughly 46% (i.e., 46% of visits consist of only one pageview)… The time spent in a typical visit to the site is roughly three minutes, with 75 seconds spent on each pageview.” The site sees so little traffic, and there are only 12 other sites that link to it, that our class’s encounter with the webpage is probably statistically significant.
Biblegamezone also has a Facebook page where members can “like” it but not “friend” it. 105 people (including myself) have done so, and though you cannot look at people who have liked it in a list, they appear to be mostly adults with a wide geographical spread. Biblegamezone’s Facebook page sees a rush of activity through the summer of 2008 and a sharp decline afterwards. Their only post in 2009 was a link to the site itself, rather than the rapid notifications of new games from the year before. 2010 sees only one Facebook user asking Biblegamezone if they have a version in Russian (they do). The question goes unanswered by Biblegamezone.
Archive.org correlates the sharp decline seen on the Facebook page, and perhaps explains the current demographic information as well. According to Archive.org, there were 39 updates to Biblegamezone.com between May 24, 2007 and August 22, 2008. After that, no updates. The website for the company that released Biblegamezone.com, Kommunion.no, stopped updating in March 2008.
Biblegamezone.com, assuming it was intended to give children an entertaining way to learn about the Bible, seems to have missed the mark and given up.
Alexa.com. 10 Dec. 2010.http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/biblegamezone.com Archive.org. 10 Dec. 2010. http://web.archive.org/web/*/kommunion.nohttp://web.archive.org/web/*/http://biblegamezone.com
Biblegamezone.com. Storst Av Alt, 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010 <http://www.biblegamezone.com/>.
Facebook.com. 10 Dec. 2010. http://www.facebook.com/#!/biblegamezone?v=wall
Westermoen, Gunnar Church of Norway.no. The Church of Norway, 2010. Web. 9 Dec. 2010 http://www.kirken.no/english/index.cfm.